Charleston, SC is such a versatile city. No matter what your reason for visiting, family vacation, romantic getaway, girl friends weekend, there is a ton to see, do, and eat.
Weekend Getaway: Charleston, SC
We dropped the kids at school and headed out, determined to make our 3:30 reservation. We’d worked out carpools, and texted clients, ‘in an all day meeting, will get back to you on Monday’. It was true. We were meeting, and it was going to take all day, and probably into the night. We’d been friends since college after all, catching up could take a while, and Charleston was a great place to do it.
A girl friend and I escaped for a few days to Charleston recently and had a fantastic time exploring the city. I didn’t realize Charleston is such a foodie town, but our Charleston Culinary Tour taught me otherwise. Both of us had been to the city before, but it had been many years, and although there are many things that stay constant in Charleston, it felt like visiting somewhere new. Here’s a bit of what we discovered.
Playing in Charleston, SC
The best way to get acclimated in Charleston is to take a carriage ride through the city. There are five different carriage companies. We took a tour from Palmetto Carriage Works. You’ll know them by the red barn door. Funny thing about carriage tours in Charleston, you never really know what tour you’ll be taking. That’s because the city regulates the tours to spread the carriages out. Each carriage must stop after boarding to pick up their route, which is done at random.
Shopping in Charleston, SC
Since it was a girl friends weekend, of course shopping was on the agenda. Since we live in Atlanta where every chain known to man has an outlet, we searched for the local establishments. We popped into several antique shops along King Street. The crystal and silver on display was like going through the cupboards at Downton Abbey. The French Quarter’s Gallery Row is where you’ll find lots of art galleries showcasing local artists. In the end we didn’t buy anything, but had fun just enjoying walking through such a beautiful city.
You can’t visit Charleston without taking in a little history. The Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon is a great stop, especially if it’s your first visit. Upstairs is the room where George Washington was entertained, while down in the basement many suffered in shackles with little food. Such contrasts are common in the South.
There are several historic homes in Charleston, and this was high on our to do list. We toured the Joseph Manigault House. It’s amazing the reincarnations of a once grand home just to keep it going. At one time the home had an Esso gas station on the site, was divided up for apartments and even served as a USO during World War II. The guide told us about legendary parties in the basement, but that area isn’t part of the tour. The tour was interesting, but not quite worth $12 a ticket, and I’m a history nerd. It could have been that we were the last tour, or maybe it was a new guide. She talked so fast and was so sterile in her delivery that we were afraid to interrupt for fear she’d forget the whole thing. When she stopped spieling and became more conversational, it made a huge difference. Next time I might try the Nathaniel Russell House.
Where to Stay in Charleston, SC
Our Charleston home was at the Cottages on Charleston Harbor. This family friendly retreat, feels more like a community than a hotel, and is perfect for a group of friends too. There is a cluster of two bedroom homes with living area, full kitchen and full-length screened
wine rocking porch. Check-in is at the clubhouse, which has a pool and hot tub just outside the doors. Our cluster of homes, affectionately called Sweet Blessing, Glorious Morning, Summer Rain, and our abode Bountiful Hearts, had their own private beach area too, so go ahead and bring the bikini. Each morning I was awaken by a breathtaking sunrise of orange, yellow and pink. I’d open the French doors that lead to the screen porch and marvel at the quiet beauty outside.
Our hostess for the weekend was Kim. She welcomed us with a cheese and fruit tray she made herself, and her hospitality didn’t stop there. The Cottages brochure says it includes a continental breakfast and afternoon treats. When I think continental breakfast, I think a muffin and coffee. At the Cottages, Kim made us French toast and quiche one morning and eggs and sausage the next. We didn’t have to lift a finger or clean anything up. There was also coffee, tea and hot chocolate, assorted breads, oatmeal, granola bars and yogurt. I’d say it’s more like a breakfast buffet, with whatever you needed to quiet the grapes of wrath from the evening before. Since we were headed into Charleston for the day, Kim brought us out yummy jar made cakes to take back to the room for later. Of course I ate mine as soon as the door shut. As beautiful as the facilities are at the Cottages, it was Kim’s Southern hospitality that made it feel like home.
During our trip the weather was a bit too cold for swimming, although we could have brought suits for the hot tub, which invited us in with it’s rising steam. We did partake in the free bikes and took a ride down to Patriot’s Point where we toured the USS Yorktown Aircraft carrier, and walked through the Vietnam Experience. As my friends said, I’m not sure anyone wants the ‘Vietnam Experience,’ but it was interesting, and sobering all at the same time and I’m glad we went. It was also free. Afterwards we continued on to the Mount Pleasant memorial Waterfront Park which is a beautiful public park underneath the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge. What a fantastic use of space. There is a kid’s playground, pier with fishing (rent rods at the gift shop), and sturdy chairs and tables, as well as a bench swings. During certain times of the year they offer dance lessons on the pier and other special events.
Charleston, SC: Where to Eat
There are so many wonderful places to eat in Charleston SC that we could do numerous posts and still never mention them all. To get a sampling, take a culinary tour. We started our Charleston trip with Charleston Culinary Tours and it helped to get our bearings, and sample a lot in a short amount of time. Food Must Dos: Have a drink at Prohibition. Eat chicken wings at Smoke (BBQ is pretty good too), taste the calamari brined in buttermilk from HoM, and order the bruschetta as an appetizer from Vincent Chicco’s.